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Disney's First Hispanic Princess: Why Activists Are Furious

Sofia the First Disney

Why is Disney's first Hispanic princess coming to TV and not a big screen? Is this a diss for Latinos?
—Andy, via Twitter

Disney has confirmed, in a relatively quiet way, that its next li'l royal will be a Latina girl named Sofia. Hispanic activists are pissed, though, and not for the reasons you may think.

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First, the details. Yes, the movie Sofia the First: Once Upon a Princess will feature the company's inaugural Latin princess. She is coming via the Disney Channel on Nov. 18, followed by a 2013 TV series on both Disney Channel and Disney Junior.

The last two Disney princess films have been Brave and Tangled.

"Both Brave and Tangled were huge box office successes for Disney and continue their trend of updated princesses, from passive characters in need of rescue, to action-heroines," says ERC box office analyst Jeff Bock.

Still, Disney has said that it wants to do fewer big-screen fairy-tale-type stories in the future, and that may be one reason that you won't see Sofia at the cineplex. (The company didn't immediately return my request for comment.)

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That decision doesn't bother Alex Nogales, President and CEO for the National Hispanic Media Coalition.

"That really doesn't matter," he told me. "The Latino community is in a place right where they need strong role models and doesn't matter whether it comes from film or TV."

What does anger him is the way that Disney is going about debuting Sofia. When asked directly, Disney officials have confirmed Sofia's ethnicity, but, according to Entertainment Weekly, the Disney team is purposely downplaying that fact in its marketing, an approach that offends Nogales.

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"We consume a hell of a lot of television, and I don't understand the reluctance of the producers not to be upfront and say, ‘This person is Latina.'"

Technically, the princess is from an imaginary country, but even that isn't the point, Nogales tells me.

"It can be a fake country," he says. "But just say she's Hispanic. I am really angry about this. We're taking a lot of s--t from conservative talk radio across the nation, and to just say ‘We didn't want to play that up,' that's bulls--t.

"The more I think of this, the more furious I get."

Nogales says he has yet to hear from Disney about its choice, but he adds, "I hope they come out with the reason why—one where I can say, ‘Well, I am sorry then.'"

A Disney spokeswoman tells us, meanwhile, that the range of characters in Sofia the First and the actors who play them "are a reflection of Disney's commitment to diverse, multicultural storytelling, and the wonderful early reaction to Sofia affirms that commitment."

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